How to start creating stop-motion animation fun

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There’s a very cool world out there your can put in the palm of your children’s hands, giving them the power to create animation around your home inside or out.

Welcome to the world of a technique called stop-motion animation.

What is great about it is that you don’t have to be an amazing drawing artist — just a story teller or comedian, and we all have stories or jokes we like to tell. It’s a great technique your children can use to tell their stories and transform a mobile device or video game/video playing device to a stop-motion-animation making machine.

If you are scratching your head at this point and asking what stop motion is again, you probably own films that used this animation technique. “The Adventures of Wallace and Gromit,” “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are among many such films.

I remember the California Raisins commercials being the stop-motion of my time. Actually the talking, moving raisins were the result of what is called clay-mation — they were made of clay and filmed at each movement, which when all the frames were put together created the illusion of fluid motion.

The first instance of the stop motion technique can be credited to Albert E. Smith and J. Stuart Blackton for “The Humpty Dumpty Circus” in 1897. So this not some fad for the latest animation blockbuster or some classic ’60s holiday video you only watch once a year. This technique has been around the block and can be harnessed in your phone or other portable device.

Enough of the history lesson. Let’s get into what you need to do to get going.

You will need one of the following mobile devices, as in devices not tied to a desk:

  • Nintendo 3ds, comes with stop-motion software
  • A cell phone running Android 1.5 and up
  • iPhone 3gs, 4, 4s or 5
  • iPad 2 or 3
  • iPod Touch 4 or 5

Apps you need can be:

  • For Apple devices, iMotion HD app is has free version
  • For Android phones, stop-motion app has a lite version that is free

Are there better apps? Possibly, but these are free and being a parent with other family expenses, free seems like the right price for us. If the kids get really into it you can always look at added features or other paid apps.

All of these apps are very easy to use and most likely your children will master them in 10 minutes. They all break down to picking a setting or two, creating a name for your movie and taking pictures.

We used a whiteboard to draw an images, taking a picture of it, then erasing and drawing another image for our next frame.

I found that most children like to animate a puppet or toy instead of drawing images for each frame. Your children can build a world of stages or blocks or cardboard for their toys to perform in, allowing them capture some of their imagination into stories they like to tell and retell.

Another fun technique is called time-lapse. Most stop-motion applications come with a time-lapse feature. It allows you set the camera down and let the camera do all the work taking pictures at intervals — not so good for stop-motion but still fun to play with.

It can involve doing simple things like filming a family member eating in intervals or watching something cook through the glass window in the oven. My favorite is setting up the device outside and capturing the leaves falling.

People love watching things change over time, especially if a lot has been accomplished like cleaning a room (wink wink, parents). So you might set up the phone to capture your child cleaning his or her room in time-lapse.

This could work out in a couple of ways, amusing for the child and making cleaning their room fun, or showing your child later how quickly he or she cleaned their room when they say it takes sooo long. Or you can create some Mary Poppins-like tricks to make it seem as if the room is cleaning itself.

Another great thing is the application runs on your phone, so you can take it anywhere for hours of fun.

But mostly this can transform the passive act of watching an animation or film into an empowering act where you and your child become a film maker and story teller, plus have some fun and share some laughs.

Jentzen Mooney is a Walla Walla-based business analyst and consultant. He can be reached at jentzen.bzkk@gmail.com

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